The Seattle Kraken converged from all points on the ice to the same spot – Philipp Grubauer’s net.
A fitting gathering place to celebrate another first for this young franchise.
Grubauer was stellar in stopping 33 shots, Oliver Bjorkstrand scored twice and the Kraken eliminated the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche with a 2-1 win in Game 7 on Sunday night.
The Kraken became the first expansion team to beat the reigning Stanley Cup champs in their inaugural playoff series, according to NHL Stats.
“A great accomplishment,” said Kraken forward Yanni Gourde, who had two assists. “Our fans have been amazing. They deserve this.”
Bjorkstrand scored one goal on a fortuitous deflection – the puck hit off a stick and glove – and another with a liner past goaltender Alexandar Georgiev that clanged off the post. Seattle grabbed the lead in every game in the series.
Next up for the second-year Kraken is a second-round series against the Stars that opens in Dallas on Tuesday night. Seattle was 1-1-1 against Dallas in the regular season.
The Kraken take a heap of momentum with them, too.
“It gives them that check mark of success,” Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said.
The Avalanche put up a fight as their season ended, pushing to score a game-tying goal until the final horn. Grubauer highlighted just how tight the competition had been postgame.
“I feel absolutely gassed,” he told TNT’s Aly Lozoff. “That was a hell of a game. They made it really hard on us. Even in the regular season, it was tight games. We expected that. They came out with their best and we were fighting back. Unbelievable team effort today.”
Not many expected the Kraken to pull out a victory, going up against the defending champions in their first-ever playoff run. Grubauer was thrilled to have proven them wrong.
“Lot of people have written us off,” he explained. “We proved them wrong and we grew together during the whole year and it showed in this series.”
Grubauer himself has had a stellar series, recording a .926 save percentage over 7 games. Money Puck reports he saved 2.9 goals above expected in the series, fourth in all goaltenders this postseason. The series followed a 17-14-0 record for Grubauer in the regular season, propelling the Kraken to the postseason.
As a whole offensively, while Dallas is generating shots and quality at the third-highest rate in the playoffs, they haven’t been as effective at getting to the dangerous areas of the ice as they were in the regular season, but watch for the return of Joe Pavelski. He left Dallas’ first game against the Wild after being hit by Minnesota’s Matt Dumba and did not return for the remainder of the series. He has been skating with his teammates the past two days and did take line rushes in Monday’s practice. Pavelski is a master at net front play and tapped in three goals against the Kraken in the regular season.
Defensively, Dallas has been solid in the post-season, but a possible area of opportunity lies in the forecheck. No other playoff team allowed more scoring chances this way than the Stars – and the Kraken do love to thrive off this style of pressure-driven play.
But even if you can break through the defense, there’s one more big challenge and that lies in goaltender Jake Oettinger. In the post-season, he’s been excellent registering four quality starts and one shutout. If you look at goaltenders who’ve played at least two games, his 4.43 goals saved above expectation ranks third in the NHL playoffs as does his overall save percentage (92.68%).
“It’s amazing,” forward Yanni Gourde said. “It’s a great feeling. So proud of this group. We battled so hard, especially in our second year in this League.
“Just making the playoffs is an accomplishment. We battled so hard all year long. But getting the win here in Game 7 showed how much character, how much care we have for one another, how much belief we have in this locker room, in this group.”
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